My Favorite Movies #19 – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade


Directed by Steven Spielberg

Quick synopsis… Fedora and whip at the ready, Indiana Jones sets off on his third cinematic outing accompanied by none other than his father, Henry, to explore the cradle of civilization on a perilous hunt for the Holy Grail — which the Nazis are also after.

  • Remember when we thought this was the last Indiana Jones movie?
  • Remember how it really should’ve been?
  • I mean… the conquering heroes ride off into the sunset as the credits roll and the triumphant “Raiders March” plays… triumphantly…
  • Anyway, we’ll get to the end later.
  • Every Indiana Jones movie begins with Indy in the middle of an adventure and this one is no different.
  • But this time, we see the beginning of the adventures of a young Indiana Jones (River Phoenix).
  • It’s 1912 and a 13-year-old Indiana Jones is on a horseback riding trip with his Boy Scout troop at Utah’s Arches National Park.
  • When the boys are given time to explore on their own, Indy and his friend discover a crew of apparent grave robbers who have found the fictional Cross of Coronado.
  • That’s right… it doesn’t exist.
  • While the treasure hunters are distracted looking for more loot, Indy steals the cross, arguing that it should be in a museum.
  • He leads the treasure hunters on a merry chase that ends up on a circus train.
  • It’s convenient that everything on this train gives us all of the Indiana Jones trademarks we’ve come to know and love (the use of a bullwhip, the origin of Harrison Ford’s chin scar, Indy’s fear of snakes).
  • Turns out, Indy had no right to take that cross, as the man who financed the treasure hunters had a legal claim to its discovery.
  • The leader of the treasure hunters then gives Indy his fedora.
  • We jump ahead to 1938 and Indiana Jones (now Harrison Ford) is on a doomed ship off the coast of Portugal, where he’s still trying to retrieve the Cross of Coronado from the same man that financed the dig all those years ago.
  • Indy manages to get the cross and escape overboard just before the ship explodes.
  • Look… I know that Indy has a point about some things belonging in a museum so that the world can share in how special they are.
  • But I think the argument could be made that Indy is the bad guy here.
  • The cross belongs to this guy in the Panama hat.
  • Indy stole it from him… twice.
  • And, kind of indirectly, blew up his ship…
  • Anyway, the cross ends up in Marcus Brody’s museum and we can assume no charges were filed against Dr. Jones.
  • Back at his university, Indy escapes a mob of students by sneaking out of his office window before being “invited” to meet with Walter Donovan.
  • Donovan is a collector of antiquities who has made a number of impressive donations to the museum.
  • I don’t see Indy stealing anything from Donovan’s personal collection…
  • Anyway, Donovan is obsessed with finding the Holy Grail and wants Indy to join Dr. Schneider in the hunt for the Grail.
  • He has part of a stone tablet that contains information about the location of the Grail.
  • Donovan explains that he had an expert looking for the Grail, but that man has since vanished without a trace.
  • Turns out, that expert on the Holy Grail is Indy’s father, Dr. Henry Jones.
  • Indy and Marcus go to Henry’s house and find it ransacked… someone’s been looking for something.
  • Indy then realizes he got a package that contains his father’s Grail diary, which holds every clue and bit of information that Henry has uncovered in his lifelong search for the Holy Grail.
  • In spite of never having a close relationship with his father, Indy fears that he’s in danger and decides to take up Donovan on the offer to continue the search for the Grail with Dr. Schneider.
  • Marcus joins Indy as they fly to Venice and the men are surprised when Schneider turns out to be a woman, Dr. Elsa Schneider.
  • Elsa explains that Henry had sent her to look for something in the map section of the library and when she returned, he was gone, along with all his papers.
  • It doesn’t take long for Indy to figure out that his father wasn’t looking for a book about a knight’s tomb, he was looking for the tomb itself.
  • The library was converted from an old cathedral, and they find that the tomb is in the catacombs beneath the library.
  • Indy and Elsa leave Marcus to keep watch while look for the tomb underground.
  • Marcus does a horrible job of keeping watch because while he just stares down into the darkness, he’s approached and knocked out by a trio of suspicious men in fezzes.
  • Fezzes are cool.
  • Down in the catacombs, they discover it’s half flooded with petroleum saturated water… how does that even work?
  • They face about a billion rats and finally come across the tomb of a knight from the First Crusade.
  • The knight’s shield contains the same inscription from Donovan’s stone tablet, but this one is complete.
  • In an attempt to stop Indy from discovering the knight’s tomb, the guys in fezzes set the petroleum on fire, causing the catacombs to erupt in fireball.
  • This leads to a merry chase in speedboats through Venice’s canals.
  • Indy manages to capture one his pursuers, who reveals himself to be Kazim, a member of the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword.
  • They are a secret society who is sworn to protect the secrets of the Holy Grail.
  • When Indy explains he has no interest in the Grail, he just wants to find his missing father, Kazim reveals that his father is being held in the Castle of Brunwald on the Austrian-German border.
  • Indy and Marcus put their heads together and determine that Henry knew everything about where to find the Grail except where to begin, citing an unlabeled map in the diary.
  • The knight’s shield reveals the starting place for that map would have been Alexandretta, currently known as Iskenderun in Turkey.
  • Indy tears the map out of the diary and sends Marcus on to Iskenderun to meet up with Sallah while he goes to retrieve Henry from the castle.
  • Not an easy task, as the castle is being controlled by Nazis.
  • I hate these guys…
  • At least now we know who abducted Henry.
  • Indy’s interactions with his father are priceless.
  • Henry (Sean Connery) is so proud of “Junior” when he tells him that he used the diary to find the knight’s tomb.
  • But that quickly turns to disappointment and anger when the Nazis storm in wanting the diary.
  • Indy manages to outwit the Nazis for a moment, but then he encounters Colonel Vogel who is threatening to kill Elsa unless he turns over the diary.
  • Henry tells the colonel to go ahead and shoot…
  • Because Elsa is with the Nazis.
  • But it’s too late… she has the diary and the Jones boys are held captive.
  • But that’s not the last twist.
  • Donovan’s the man in charge… he’s a Nazi, too.
  • In Iskenderun, it isn’t long before Marus is nabbed by the bad guys.
  • The Doctors Jones are left tied up in a room at the castle while Donovan and Schneider leave for Berlin.
  • Indy gets Henry to grab the lighter from his pocket to see if he can burn through the ropes.
  • Except he sets the entire room ablaze.
  • In spite of this, they manage to escape and lead Vogel and his men on another merry chase.
  • Once they’re free and clear, there’s an argument about which way they should go.
  • Indy wants to go and save Marcus, but Henry argues that the diary is the priority.
  • It’s another great moment between father and son.
  • They risk going to Berlin, where Indy confronts Elsa to retake the diary.
  • He even manages to get Hitler’s autograph, which probably isn’t anything to brag about.
  • Indy and Henry manage to escape Berlin on a zeppelin, but it isn’t long before the Nazis catch up to them and they have to escape on a biplane attached to the underside of the blimp.
  • Against all odds, they escape again and meet up with Sallah, who informs them of Marcus’ abduction.
  • They catch up to the Nazis and a battle ensues when the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword shows up to keep the Nazis from finding the Grail.
  • Vogel corners Henry as he tries to save Marcus from the inside of a tank.
  • Vogel violently asks Henry why they would risk everything to come back for the diary when it didn’t have the map, which leads to one of my favorite lines ever.
  • “It tells me that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try reading books instead of burning them!”
  • Sadly, Kazim is killed in the battle, but the good guys win and Vogel falls over a cliff with the tank.
  • Donovan and the Nazis get to the Grail Temple first and manage to kill off a number of henchmen who try to get through the temple’s booby traps.
  • Indy, Henry, Sallah, and Marcus are all captured, again.
  • Donovan forces Indy to go in to retrieve the Grail by shooting Henry in the stomach.
  • Thanks to the diary, Indy has all the solutions to each of the three challenges that lie ahead of the Grail.
  • In the first, “only the penitent man will pass.”
  • Apparently a penitent man will not only kneel before God to avoid having his head cut off, but will also roll forward quickly so as not to be sliced and diced by the blade that comes from the floor.
  • I’ll have to remember that next time I pray at an altar.
  • The second challenge is to spell out the name of God, in Latin, by stepping on the correct letters on the floor.
  • A wrong step could lead to a nasty fall.
  • The final challenge is a leap of faith, which is actually a really cool visual effect.
  • Indy then faces an ancient knight, who is sworn to protect the Holy Grail.
  • I said that was the final challenge, but really, the final challenge comes when one has to choose which grail is the true Holy Grail.
  • Donovan and Elsa have been following Indy.
  • The knight warns that the true Grail will grant life while the false grail will take it away.
  • Elsa chooses for Donovan, giving him an ornate golden cup, which he fills with holy water, then drinks.
  • He quickly dies in one of the most horrific movie scenes from my childhood.
  • Elsa knew all along that she had given him a false grail.
  • Indy chooses a simple cup… the cup of a carpenter.
  • He chose wisely.
  • The knight then warns that the Grail cannot leave the temple.
  • The price of immortality is remaining in the temple.
  • So the Grail would grant Indy and Henry immortality, but only if they stayed in the temple forever… I guess.
  • Explains why Henry is dead by the time we get to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
  • Let us never speak of it again.
  • Indy refills the cup and takes it out to Henry, giving him a sip, then pouring the rest on his bullet wound, healing him instantly.
  • Elsa, having ignored the knight’s warning, takes the Grail and tries to leave.
  • As soon as she crosses the great seal in the entrance, the temple begins to collapse.
  • The ground opens up and she falls to her death.
  • As Indy tries to reach for the Grail, nearly falling in the same way Elsa did, Henry tells him to let it go.
  • Our quartet of heroes escape the temple and ride off into the sunset.
  • A perfect ending to the Indiana Jones trilogy.

Next week, we go way back for a classic musical from 1939 that’s based on my favorite book of all time. Any guesses?


2 thoughts on “My Favorite Movies #19 – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

  1. My two cents? It’s the best of the Indiana Jones movies. The best balance between humour and action, and I think, the best acting too. It is as if the lead actors made each other even better—so many memorable moments. Have a great week. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: My Top 100 Movies | The Confusing Middle

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